BEach CITY BABY: History
It is a guarantee that every DC-3 still out there has an amazing history. Any given DC-3 type airframe probably had a noble career as a civilian transport or cargo hauler some time before or after the Second World War. It is arguably the most significant airline aircraft in history, and was also named by General Eisenhower to be one of the four tools that won World War II. So what makes 41-20095 so special and deserving of preservation?
Vintage Wings Inc. Douglas C-53-DO Skytrooper was on the factory floor in Santa Monica, California when Pearl Harbor was attacked and was accepted by the USAAC weeks later in January 1942. This C-53-DO was turned into a citizen soldier after war was declared, just like so many young Americans at the time. Given serial number 41-20095 it was accepted on January 29th, 1942 and sent to Bolling Field, Washington DC. The aircraft was then assigned to the Ferry Command shortly there after and flown to Presque Isle, Maine where it flew under the command of pilots from "Northeast Airlines" while with Ferry Command. Our "095" flew some of the very first survey routes and ferry flights to and from England laying the ground work for what would become known as the North Atlantic Routes used by thousands of aircraft to deliver supplies and personnel to England.
In November 1942, 41-20095 was then transferred to North Africa with the Air Transport Command where it shuttled troops and wounded in and out of the North African campaign. It was here that our aircraft served with the North African Division of ATC where it supported the war in North Africa and eventually took place in the Invasion of Sicily and Italy. The aircraft was last assigned to FEA, Cairo Division until May 12th, 1945.
After the war, its C-53 airline type configuration made it a valuable resource in the post-war rebirth of the worldwide airline transport system. It was sold to the Danish Airlines and flew as the Gorm Viking on the Danish/SAS famous Flying Viking service. The airline operated her until its merger with SAS who sold the airplane in 1952.
After its career as an airline aircraft, our C-53 found itself headed back to the United States where it became outfitted as a corporate DC-3. In October 1952, it was registered to Rampo Foundry & Wheel Works in New York as N9959F. From here it went to Air Carrier's Corp. and was changed yet again to N34D.
In 1963, the aircraft made one of its most important moves to the State of Ohio. From 1963 TO 1983 it was known as "Buckeye One," the official state transport aircraft of the Governor. The airplane participated in the opening of many General Aviation Airports in the state of Ohio. Governor Rhodes was a champion of aviation and our C-53 was his pride and joy. His Director of Aviation and DC-3 pilot, Norm Crabtree, is famously quoted as saying that "the airport runway is the most important main street in any town." They recognized the importance of General Aviation and their goal was to open an airport in every county in Ohio. After it's retirement, it was then flown to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio where she sat until 1990.
Reregistered by Ohio University of Athens, Ohio as N34DF, the aircraft was bought by the school for its engines alone to keep their own DC-3 flying. Left engineless at Dayton, Ohio the aircraft faced an uncertain fate until Ken Joseph entered the picture. Ken bought engines for the airplane and had it brought to a condition in which the FAA issued a Ferry Permit so the airplane could be flown to Beach City, Ohio. After its flight in 1992, it is here that our C-53 has sat awaiting fate. It was a chance encounter while driving through the Ohio countryside that Jason Capra stumbled across what we named "Beach City Baby" in the summer of 2014.
After tracking down the owner, a deal was eventually struck to purchase the aircraft and two spare engines for $100,000 US. With an initial down payment of Jason's own money of $20,000, a deal was made for the remaining balance to be paid off in 12 months time in full or the aircraft and the $20,000 would be forfeited.
The race was on to save the airplane and start an organization to facilitate the operation and ownership of the C-53. After taking almost 4 months to legally form and get Vintage Wings Inc. operational, all avenues were a go to secure the C-53. After a herculean effort and social media campaign, Vintage Wings Inc. in just 6 months time managed to raise all additional funds to outright purchase "Beach City Baby." On February 12th, 2017 a check for $80,000 was written to Ken Joesph for the Purchase of N34DF. The airplane was now in the hands of Vintage Wings Inc.
Now the race to get her out of the elements was on.
On the first day of work on the C-53, it was understood the amount of work it was going to take to get the aircraft from Ohio to Pennsylvania. Nothing on it worked.
A list of 50+ steps were made and prioritized to be accomplished to make the aircraft flyable. As work started to take place and the never ending task of finding support in the forms of mechanics, labor, parts, and the never ending need for funding was constant. With the incredible help and support of a growing number of volunteers and Preferred Airparts, the C-53's rehabilitation started to gain momentum.
After almost 2 years of work outside every single weekend year round, Vintage Wings C-53 was granted a flight permit by the FAA in October 2018 and was ready for her flight to Franklin, Pennsylvania.
It was a monumental day with almost 400 people in attendance at Beach City, Ohio to watch the C-53 leave her home for the past 26 years. After a very successful flight, the C-53 landed in Franklin where over 200 people took part in her Homecoming and reception. A week later, the work began again but this time for her full restoration back to airworthiness as a premier warbird and history teacher.
Our C-53 is representative of the men and women of the Greatest Generation and the rich legacy of the DC-3 in every way. A civilian drafted into service weeks after the US entered the war, it has served in multiple theaters under multiple commands and worked under legends of the era. After the war it went back to a peaceful job doing what it knew best, flying passengers in luxurious service. In its golden years the C-53 became a politician of sorts, and an ambassador of aviation spreading the word to children around the State of Ohio. We want to continue that final educational mission, while paying homage to its entire career.
Our goal is to create a flying classroom; A mobile living history museum. Static aircraft in museums serve a distinct and valuable purpose, but a flying aircraft with all its sights, sounds and smells simply can not be replicated in a museum. The cabin and cockpit will become a classroom with learning modules using key points in its distinct history that align with key points in aviation history. Guests will see the significance of its role as a Military C-53 in winning the war and as a DC-3A creating the model for the modern air transportation system. Flying into airshows, fly-in's and other aviation related events, it will offer more then just a silent and empty cabin. Our core goal is to inspire future generations by telling the amazing history of 41-20095 as only it can do.
Now it is our turn to write this amazing airplane's next chapter. With your help we can bring "BEACH CITY BABY" back to life. Don't let this beautiful piece of American aviation history fade away or worse, be cut by the scrapper's torch. With your contribution and help we can put our C-53 back where it belongs, in the air.
Our C-53's next mission will be its greatest yet as it fulfills the duty of education, history, and remembrance.
To be continued...